Women's competition, Osaka
From 2 June To 6 June 2004

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Brazilians Seek End to Title Drought
OSAKA, JAPAN, June 3, 2004 - For the second-straight week, one of the world's top pro beach volleyball team will have a chance to end a title drought when the "money" rounds of the US$180,000 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour event begin here Friday.

The Japan Open, the fourth stop on the 2004 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour, continues the Olympic qualifying process for the 2004 Athens Games. When Main Draw play starts Friday, Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar of Brazil will be seeking their first tournament crown since the 2002 season.

Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs of the United States snapped an 18-event title drought in China last week by winning for the first-time since June 2003 when they won a domestic event in San Diego. Shelda and Adriana, the winningest women's pro beach team in history with 29 titles, have not captured an event championship in their last 15 starts since winning the Mallorca gold medal near the end of the 2002 season.

Three of the top four-ranked teams in the world are missing this weekend's women event along with Ana Paula Connolly and Sandra Pires of Brazil, the top tandem on the 2003 SWATCH-FIVB World Tour. Due to Ana Paula's hand injury, the Brazilians have missed the last two international events in Greece and China after placing fifth in the 2004 season opener in Fortaleza, Brazil.

The United States tandems of Misty May/Kerri Walsh, McPeak/Youngs and Annett Davis/Jenny Johnson Jordan are also missing the 11th Osaka stop on Tannowa Beach due to their participation in a domestic event in Southern California. May and Walsh won the first two SWATCH-FIVB World Tour stops this season in Brazil and Greece. McPeak and Youngs captured last week's event in Shanghai by defeating Davis and Johnson Jordan in the finals.

Japan's Chiaki Kusuhara and Ryo Tokuno will also be seeking to improve their Olympic qualifying point total for the third time in four events this season. Currently Japan's top-ranked team (17th) on the women's Olympic qualifying list, Kusuhara and Tokuno need to place 17th or better this week to improve their current point total of 1,132.

Kusuhara and Tokuno placed 13th and fifth in the first two SWATCH-FIVB World Tour stops in Brazil and Greece, respectively, before placing 25th last week in Shanghai. The pair started the season with 928 Olympic qualifying points.

Sydney 2000 beach volleyball Olympian Mika Teru Saiki will be playing in the event as she forms Japan's No. 2 team with Satoko Urata. Teru Saiki placed second in the 2000 Osaka event with Yukiko Takahashi where they lost to Shelda and Adriana in the final. Miho Makabe and Shinako Tanaka will also represent the host country in the 32-team Main Draw.

Following the Osaka event, the SWATCH-FIVB World Tour has a weekend off before the final three Olympic qualifying events in Switzerland, Germany and Norway. The women's beach volleyball competition at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games will be played August 14-24.